INDIGENOUS peoples (IPs) in the country have called on the government to help them fight for their ancestral domain and give them their sense of belongingness in society.

Around 80 leaders of different tribal communities in the country met for three days starting Monday in Lantapan town, Bukidnon and discussed the problems affecting the IPs.

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The meeting coincided with the first State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Benigno Aquino III.

Those who joined the meeting are from the tribes of Igorot, Aeta,

Palawan, T’boli, B’laan, Mandaya, Teduray, Mansaka, Manobo, Higaonon, Subanen/Subanon, Talaandig, Mamanwa, Hanunuo, Kalanguya/Kankana-ey, Tuali, Tinamanen, and Mangyan.

As a result of the meeting, the IPs will come up with their own State of the Indigenous Peoples’ Address (Sipa) that they will submit to President Aquino in one month’s time.

Aside from the issues on ancestral domain and right to belongingness, the IPs also want the present administration to look into the economic condition of the tribal communities in the country.

Noel D. Tawas, vice chairperson of Natabuk Federation in Kibawe Bukidnon, said since time immemorial, the IPs are known as the first migrants in the history of the Philippines and have been cultivating their lands.

But during the colonization when the Republic of the Philippines was formed, he said the IPs were forcefully joined to become one of the natives, who allegedly started destroying their land, culture and community, which is “killing our very own tribe.”

“We will voice our rights to government services, food, ancestral domain and human rights just like any ordinary Filipino citizen because we are of the same race, more pure Filipino blood than any foreigners destroying our lands for their own benefit,” Tawas said during a press conference held Thursday at Brewberry Café in Velez St.

Tawas said among the issues the IPs really consider is their claim on ancestral domain that directly affects their community.

He cited illegal mining, illegal logging and hydro mining as among the issues the IPs would want the Aquino administration to look into, as they issued their opposition on the President’s “private-public partnership” proposal.

“We are also calling the government to stop making hydro plants since our ancestral domains will be washed out and we will no longer have a place of our own,” Tawas said.

Aurelio Barut Tamasco, a T’boli leader from South Cotabato, said the IPs all remain marginalized, impoverished and subject to abuse in their own ancestral domain.

Rovic S. Obanil, communications and networking officer of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, a non-government organization that helps the IPs in their struggle, said they hope President Benigno Aquino would listen to their pleas.

Obanil said for the last two years of their Sipa, the issues they have raised to former Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo has not been heard.

“Instead, the IP’s were not respected. They are being ignored by using gimmicks to distract people from the real state of the indigenous sector,” Obanil said.

The Sipa fist started in 2008 as a gathering of IP leaders to discuss common issues hounding the sector, particularly their struggle for the right to self-determination.

The Sipa also serves as a collective platform for the IPs to advocate for their rights, as well as a guide for support groups in identifying their services and intervention for the sector. (Nicole J. Managbanag)